An MLP:FiM Fanfiction by Midnight Shadow
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic © Hasbro and Lauren Faust. Please support the official release
When Celestia arrived on the scene, with Luna not far behind, the blue unicorn with the shattered horn was no longer convulsing. She was awake and drinking a little water from a cup which was held out carefully to her by Snails. The youg unicorn was talking softly to her, softer than many thought he could manage,
“Come on Trixie, you gotta drink some, you just gotta, you’ll be okay, you’re the Great and Powerful Trixie!”
At those words, Trixie started weeping, shuddering sobs wracking her body. Zecora lay down next to her to comfort her. Snips, too, wormed his way next to her. Celestia looked on, but her gaze was soft and eyes bright, “it seems my Twilight isn’t the only pony to need-”
At the mention of Twilight’s name, Trixie became agitated, and Zecora moved to quiet the unicorn with clucking and tutting noises before she turned to the princess. With a wave of her head in a follow me motion, the zebra got up and walked a small distance away from the crowd. “Princess Celestia, magic most foul has been cast upon poor Trixie - pray can you undo it? She cannot speak, has been struck lame and her horn, it has been shattered. And... there is more."
Celestia looked quickly over at Trixie in shock, and then back to Zecora, “More? What pray tell could be worse than that?”
“Luna, you must hear this too." Zecora beckoned the midnight blue princess closer also, "The one who has done this... was none other than Twilight.” At the twin gasps of unbelieving surprise from the princesses, Zecora shook her head, “Neigh, you must believe me, but this is not our Twilight, somehow she has... she has become Nightmare Moon.”
Celestia looked critically at Luna for a half second, who looked at the ground in shame. Celestia shook her head too, and gently kissed her sister’s forehead, “Whatever has happened, dear sister, it was not of your doing.”
“I... I have my doubts. Go on, Zecora.” Luna shuddered as she spoke these words.
“Trixie described a winged unicorn, with the cutie-mark of Twilight, bearing the mantle of the moon. She had been struck dumb by powerful magic, so her explanation was crude, but thorough. Perhaps if you can undo this hexing, we may get to the bottom of this unicorn's vexing.”
“Indeed. Spike? Spike! I require your assistance” Celestia turned and lifted her head, calling for the baby dragon, “but first, let us verify Twilight’s absence and perhaps begin to piece together this sorry tale.”
Spike was sent running to search for Twilight. Nopony had seen her, though a few thought she had retreated to her library to recover from the night’s exertions. However, upon searching there, Spike found nothing but a book, the self-same book Twilight had been reading and re-reading every night for weeks before Nightmare Moon - Luna - had returned. Placing it on the table thoughtfully, he scampered back out to the town square to report on his efforts.
As he returned he found Celestia and Luna together weaving magic over the prone, listless form of Trixie. As their joint spell culminated in a soft flash of light, Trixie stirred and slowly, shakily, got to her feet.
She walked around in a brief circle before cautiously trotting, “I’m... it doesn’t hurt! I can talk! Oh, thank you princesses, thank you so very much, I can’t tell you - I can’t tell you what this means to the great... to me,” she burst into tears again, Snips and Snails leaned against her, rubbing their heads against the barrel of her chest. She bent and kissed their foreheads, “Thank you for believing in me... but without my horn, I’m not the Great and Powerful anything, I’m just... just Trixie.”
“Trixie,” said Celestia sadly, “I’m not sure what can be done about your horn... if we had the pieces..."
“Ah, but I do, I can show them to you!” said Zecora, and hope flared in Trixie’s eyes
“And if we had plenty of peace and quiet,” added Luna
“We may be able to restore you!” enthused Celestia, flicking her flowing tail with happiness, her ears perking up.
“But first, we need to know what happened.” Luna was down to earth, she nodded firmly, “I have a theory, but I want to hear what you have to say.”
Celestia looked at her sister oddly, but remained silent. She motioned for the unicorn to speak.
Trixie spoke, haltingly at first, then with more clarity. She described the first sighting of Twilight, haughty and arrogant, exuding an aura of power which was unmistakably Twilight, but yet... not.
“And you say she had wings?”
“Huge, huge black and purple wings, like those of a dragon, or a bat. They were tattered and torn, like they were... I don’t know... from something else, something older. And she had armor,” Trixie nodded, “it was," she blushed, looked down, unwilling to speak, though she carried on at the urging of the two rulers of Equestria, “it was like your... like Nightmare Moon’s armor, but different. Similar, but... not the same.”
Luna bowed her head, “I had thought myself, and Equestria, rid of them." she said, darkly
“Them?” queried Celestia.
“I... in my anger, all those years ago big sister, I reached out with my powers to punish those who transgressed against me, against even imagined slights and insults. Something heard me, some things. I do not know in truth whether they reached me or I reached them, but they spoke to me, they whispered, they wheedled and promised, and wondered why I, the co-ruler of Equestria, was shunned and ignored, a pariah, an outcast."
Celestia was shocked anew, “you never were! I loved you then and I love you now!”
“We all do, Luna, even before,” Trixie spoke up, “the night is different to the day - and we always imagined you were sitting in the moon watching out for us, keeping us safe and we loved you for it. We’d heard the old stories, but there were others too, about your lonely vigil and the song of the moon. I used to look up at night from my bed and wish you a good night before I went to sleep,” Trixie blushed, “I still do the same, even after... no, especially after Twilight and her friends. We love you just as much as we love Celestia.”
There was a murmur of agreement from the crowd who were raptly listening to this otherwise private moment, Luna thought her heart might burst. There had been many changes since those fateful days so long, long ago, but it had taken this sad, troubled trip to Ponyville for the last of the bad memories to fade.
“After my return, even before I was... redeemed, I still loved my subjects, even though the voices told me I had been betrayed. Now I know you all love me, and I love you all. Not everypony sleeps through the night, but I watch over all of them just the same, just as my big sister watches you all through the day, even though some of you spend more time napping than you should.”
Rainbow Dash, at the back of the crowd, hunched down and tried to look nonchalant before hurrying off on other chores.
“But sister,” continued Luna, “I had thought the voices part of my... my madness. Made up justification. Now I’m not so sure.”
“The armor,” Celestias eyes narrowed, “where did it come from?”
“I made it, or I had my slaves make it, from star-metal. A falling star crashed in the blue mountains. I had it fetched and shaped, but it was destroyed as Nightmare Moon was destroyed, by the Elements of Harmony!”
“I do not believe your armor was destroyed, little sister, I believe it was merely shattered.”
Luna nodded, lashing her tail angrily and thoughtfully, “Into pieces! I left them where they fell as I left behind my old life, in my castle in the Everfree Forest.”
“Which is where my faithful student, ever the brave and often the foolish Twilight Sparkle would go to seek answers to a storm like that. After the storm last night, brought forth from that wild place to produce so much destruction, she would go looking for answers. I had thought she had learnt her lesson last time facing Nightmare Moon though... always take friends.”
“I don’t... I don’t follow,” said Trixie, “what has happened?”
“An ancient evil that I thought gone forever has returned, and ensnared Twilight - it was not she who cursed you so.”
Celestia smiled at these words, and nuzzled her little sister’s ears, “this does give us one cause for celebration, when all this is over.”
“What?” asked Luna
“It means that the mare I sent to the moon... she wasn’t you. Luna, please, I think I have a task for you,” the princess raised her head and called for Spike again, who was nervously ringing his paws and hopping up and down, “Spike, I want you to fetch something for me."
The winged unicorn mare bent down and whispered in the young dragon’s ear.
He looked up at her and said simply, ”are you sure?” and then shrugged when she nodded in the affirmative.
A few minutes later he returned with a simple black box bearing Twilight’s seal on it. He placed it in front of Celestia.
“Spike, take a note please.”
Spike pulled out a parchment and quill expectantly, and began to write as the Princess Celestia dictated, “I, Princess Celestia of Equestria, divine ruler of the day, co-ruler of Equestria by birthright, do hereby place, temporarily at least, the gift and burden of bearer of the Element of Harmony known as the Element of Magic, upon my younger sister Princess Luna, divine ruler of the night, fellow co-ruler of Equestria.” she turned to Luna, “Sister, do you accept this?”
“Sister, I... but, it is Twilight’s!”
“Luna, beloved, we all have our talents, we all embody the values we hold dear. The day is a time of planning and action, but the night... the night is for the heart, and it is the magic of the heart that we sorely need now, and that is what Twilight will sorely need if we are to redeem her this side of a thousand years.”
Luna blanched, and bowed her head, “for the sake of Twilight, and our people, I accept.”
Spike had lifted out the bejewelled tiara from the box, but at Luna’s words it had lifted from his grasp and floated seemingly of it’s own volition towards the purple winged unicorn princess, where with a flash of light it became a halter, with a moon-shaped jewel set in a heart.
“Celestia, I will strive to do my utmost to fulfill your confidence in me.”
“Luna, it is your nature which enables you to wield that Element of Harmony, do not doubt your sincerety nor your ability.”
The pair hugged, necks entwined, and a ragged yet rousing cheer rose from the assembled throng; with a stamping of hoofed feet, the citizens of Ponyville showed their approval. In the midst of so much darkness, the princess of the night was there to provide the light of hope for them.
Slowly they broke apart, and Celestia closed her eyes for a moment, “Sister, I want, no I need you to do something else for me. If I thought I could do it I would, gladly, but... I need you to return to your castle. I sense Twilight is planning something, and if we are to get any sort of lead on my wayward student, it will be there. I must plan for war, war most terrible. I fear she will raise an army, the like of which we have never seen, and... and I am asking you to descend into the jaws of fate for me on a hunch.”
Luna blinked, rustling her wings, before answering very carefully, “Sister, I will do this that you ask of me.” and in a flash she was gone, turned to smoke and disappearing on the wind.
“Good luck, little sister.” said Celestia softly under her breath.
The forest was dark and dangerous. The castle, deep within, was ruined and forboding. Flickering, baleful lights shone wanly in the hazy twilight. The pony that approached, swifter than the wind and twice as silent, needed neither light nor guidance to find her way. She had been there thousands of times over the millennia, since when it had been new and pristine. She could never forget the route. Nothing could stop her entry, though that wasn’t what concerned her. What concerned her was her exit.
The blue-purple mist swooped through the undergrowth and across chasms, flowing around mountains to its final destination, reaching it in mere moments, before reforming with a swirl of light and energy into a large, tall, blue-and-purple winged unicorn pony.
Luna looked around carefully. The air was cold, her breath steaming, and the room seemed empty. She stepped towards her throne. She mentally corrected herself; once it had been hers, then it became Nightmare Moon’s. Now it lay in ruins. There was a small set of panniers on the floor and a book strewn next to them. Luna stepped closer. The bag was Twilight’s, as was the book, she recognized the hoofwriting. She gathered them up with her magic, placing the bags upon her back and tightened the straps. It was then that the jewel in her halter... twitched. She raised her head, ears pricked up.
There was a soft clop-clop-clop as somepony walked closer. A purple pony, though elongated and angular now, like her bigger sister and like herself when she had been Nightmare Moon, approached. It was a unicorn, but with huge bat wings from her back, tattered and frail-looking, yet possessing a poise and strength that hinted at danger from every pore.
“Hello, Luna. Come to worship me, have you?”
Luna backed away, her wings flicking nervously, head lowered, horn pointed at the abomination, “I will never worship you, just as you would never have worshipped me. What do you want, Twilight Sparkle?”
“Sparkle?” the pony-creature spat, “I refuse to answer to that name. Now, I am Twilight DOOM. I am the Empress of Nightmares, the greatest, most powerful pony you or any other pony has ever seen and I demand my birthright. I demand Equestria. You will give it to me, you and your pathetic sister, or I will take it.”
Luna squared her shoulders as best she could, “I am Luna De Selena, co-ruler of Equestria, Goddess of the Night, Defender of the Moonlit Herds, the Mare of the Moon, and you will take neither my crown, nor my sisters. Not without a fight.”
Twilight, or what Twilight had become, laughed a deep, throaty, scratching laugh, “if a fight is what you want, a fight is what you’ll get. You think my title of Empress of Nightmares is mere posturing? You hapless foal. Behold my army!”
Twilight gestured with a wing, and baleful magic lit the ruined courtroom in a bright flare of harsh blue-white light. Luna gasped, the chittering and scraping noises she’d been hearing in the back of her mind suddenly came in full force, previously hidden by Twilight’s phenomenal magic. She felt sick to her stomach at the sight; lich-ponies, limbs missing, flesh dropping from their bones twitched and drooled, heaving their decrepit bodies closer to the warmth of Luna’s living form. Nightmarish abominations of steel and stone, shaped like twisted, skeletal and viciously-spiked wolves and dragons, clambered over the walls and up the ceiling. Two legged beasts with the heads of pigs, goats and oxen hammered at anvils, beating out weapons by the dozen, their grossly misshapen paws the size of Luna’s head. Chittering monsters idly swung on hammocks that looked like they were made of still-beating flesh. They tore heartily into something bloodied and furry as they watched her with baleful squinting eyes. It might have been a wolf-boar, it might have been almost anything, even a pony. She backed away, horrified, as from a deep bleeding crack in the floor rose something like the head of a pony with long-dead vacant eyes and broken fangs for teeth, its body misshapen and missing in places, crawling, bleeding tentacles with sharp-fanged mouths. It pulled its way out of the muck and stench, hollow burning gaze fixated on her, and it started weeping. The noise was bone-chilling, it was a long lost foal, leg broken, far from home, calling for mother. It was the frightened whinny of a fellow member of the herd, cornered by some vicious animal.
“Help me,” it cried in soft, tearful heart-jerking sobs, “help me, please, please save me..."
Luna shuddered, eyes growing wide and misty, the mournful sobs pulling her closer, slow agonizing steps as she fought against the compulsion with every fibre of her being, and lost. Mesmerised by the siren song of this eldritch beast as its tentacles and chitinous claws grasped her small frame, the bulging, pulsating mass overwhelmed Luna, pushing her to the ground where it slowly heaved it’s bulk onto her muzzle, attempting to smother her, keeping her alive just as long as it could, feeding off the fear generated in the back of her trapped, screaming mind before it’s clacking jaws could fasten around her neck...
With a sudden scream the pony beneath the dark behemoth flashed into nothing, smoke roiling wetly away into the ether, leaving the beast to clack it’s jaws in impotent rage around empty air and haul it’s sickening putrid bulk back into the crevasse and return to the dank hell from which it came.
Twilight threw back her head and laughed, mad peeling exaltations of her power and might followed the retreating alicorn as she sped away from the nightmares.
“They come, and they seek... they seek only death.”
Luna lay gasping for breath in the square in Ponyville, eyes wide and rolling.
“By Celestia’s beard!” said Spike, rushing to help, glancing guiltily at Celestia herself, as the distraught blue unicorn apparated.
“Luna, are you alright?” asked the white and rainbow princess, “what happened? Catch your breath, slow down, tell us.”
“It was... I found Twilight, but she’s not... she’s not Twilight. They have her now, like they had me. She’s raised an army, an unholy horde of minions from some dark hell... Oh sister, it’s so much worse than last time.” Luna squeezed her eyes shut, tears forming. She buried her head in her wings and sobbed quietly.
Celestia stood tall, proud, resigned, “it is as I thought. Sister, a thousand years ago you were at your peak, but even then you were my little sister. Twilight... her insatiable quest for knowledge has been warped into a quest for power and dominion. You never wanted anything but recognition, even though you could never be loved as the nightmare you were.”
“I... you know nothing of nightmares, Sister, Twilight does.”
“Indeed, I fear you were stronger than her, it kept the madness in check. Twilight has... Twilight has little hope but for the love of her friends. She’ll be wanting it to end, her black despair will be fueling the monsters.”
“Monsters she has, sister, the likes of which... almost too unspeakable. The dead walk, fear and perversion made flesh... what hope do we have?” her breathing was ragged and she shook with fear, remember the sucking tentacles, nipping at ripe juicy flesh. What if they were poisoned? What if it was somehow inside her now, spawning... she sobbed, paranoia rearing it’s ugly head even in the bright hard daylight of the friendly town of Ponyville.
“We have you, we have the elements of harmony, we will persevere. What else can we do?”
It was then that a distraught Rarity galloped up to the princesses, breathing heavily, “Princess, Princess... this is terrible, oh my stars... just awful - Fluttershy is gone.”
“My faithful Spike, generous Rarity; summon the others - loyal Rainbow Dash, honest Applejack and bright Pinkie Pie the bringer of laughter. We will need as many of the bearers of the elements of harmony as possible for the coming struggle.”
“At once milady,” said Spike, “I’ll tell Big Mac, he’ll know where his sister is - he’s much quicker than me. I’ll explain what I can.”
“And I shall fetch Pinkie Pie, she has been feeding the sick - I’m not convinced feeding them cake is in their best interests, but it at least brings a smile to their faces.”
“Luna, you and I need to hold council. Zecora, I leave Trixie in your tender, capable hooves.”
Celestia was worried. She couldn’t show it, but she was worried. Ponyville was a peaceful earth-pony town situated more or less in the middle of Equestria far from the normally wilder borders with the dragons, the harpies or the nomadic, warlike T’Shol of the Southern Deserts. It was why, apart from the whole “redeeming her little sister” ploy, she’d sent her favourite pupil here, but just look what had happened.
“You seem troubled, Sister,” said Luna, standing next to her elder, larger sibling on the cloud floating high above the central library. They were alone, as alone as you can get with pegasus ponies zipping to and fro, reinforcing barricades, and unicorns exerting their magics to bolster the fortifications as earth ponies toiled hard, felling, lifting and dragging huge piles of lumber. The diligent, urgent sounds of preparation for war were unsettling in such an otherwise peaceful town.
Celestia frowned, “why would I be troubled? We only seek to preserve life and limb of a town of helpless, ill-trained ponies against a horde of darkness from the depths of pony hell itself.”
Luna sighed, “You were prepared all this time for a resumption of hostilities with me dear sister - you can do no more than what you do already. Summon the mages, arm the warriors, steel the healers. These helpless townsfolk believe in you, dare I say they believe in me. Perhaps we should believe in them.”
“I do, dear sister I do. I taught them all to be self-sufficient, intelligent and articulate. I taught them how to live. I just fear Twilight will teach them how to suffer and die.”
Big Mac was in a hurry. Who wasn’t? He galloped along the path back to Sweet Apple Acres hollering for his sister, Applejack.
“Where you at, Sis’? Applejack, you silly pony, when I need ya the most y’all never around..."
“Hi, er, bro - what can I do ya for?” said Applejack, poking her head out from the barn. She didn’t have her hat on for some reason and was chewing on some grass lazily.
“Applejack, what’s got in to you? You don’t look good at all, but get out here, y’all the hardest-workin’ pony in town and right now we need you. There’s an invasion on and we gotta git everyone t’safety pronto.”
Applejack choked, almost swallowing the hayseed, “an invasion? How did you kn- ah mean, an invasion?”
“I ‘unno, that Twilight’s gone loopy or summat - poor gal - and she be hunkering summat fierce for a hoedown.”
“Twilight? Twilight wh- ooohhhh, Twilight, course. Uh... Big Mac... kin you come in here a minute? Ah got summat t’show you..."
“Ye wha’ in the where now?”
“Big Macintosh, come.”
Big Mac trotted closer, looking in the barn, “what could you possibly..."
There in the barn was an orange shape. It was distinctly horse-shaped, and as Big Mac cocked his head he could make out three red, rosy apples on the haunches, “Applejack, what’re you doin’ over there if’n you’se over here?”
“Big Mac, I swear, sometimes you are one silly pony..." said the fake Applejack, and his lights went out.